Did you ever have difficulties in answering the question “Where are you from?”? It seems to be so harmless and easy to answer, but it might pose a real challenge for some of us. Is home the place where your family comes from? The place where you are born? Or rather where your loved ones live (Iyer, 2013)? In this week’s Video Fix, we would like to explore the question of home and belonging. Together with Pico Iyer, we reflect upon the difficulties that come along with this question. As we will see, sometimes, something simple might be more tricky and complex as it seems at first sight…
As the writer Pico Iyer explains, some cannot simply answer this question by indicating one specific country or a home town. “For more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil, then […] with a piece of soul” (Iyer, 2013). As Iyer (2013) describes it, for people who have travelled, lived in different places or have been raised bilingually it might be not easy to reduce their home to one single place.
Home […] is not just the place where you happen to be born, it’s the place where you become yourself (Iyer, 2013).
This issue is also discussed in science. Jean-Jacques Weber, professor emeritus at the University of Luxembourg, and Kristine Horner from the University of Sheffield (2012: 82) put it as follows: “We constantly categorize other people, we label, reify and objectify them. Labelling is a way of trying to fix somebody‘s identity, […] e.g. somebody becomes a ‘foreigner‘ or an ‘immigrant‘.” Thus, the answer to the question “Where are you from?” automatically influences the way we see our conversation partners and bears the risk of prejudices. So maybe, we can skip this question during our next small-talk and start by getting to know the individual. What do you think?
You might also be interested in some of our previous posts:
- Untangling language, intangible cultural heritage and rights
- What is the relationship between language and culture?
- Video Fix – “Fawlty Towers” and culture-induced misunderstandings in language contact
- Multilingualism: in the fabric of Europe’s identity
- Promoting bilingualism in children
Written by Elke Steinhauser – Study visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit and Master student at the University of Luxembourg. Elke has a Bachelor’s degree in German-French studies, she is now enrolled in the trilingual Master in ‘Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts’ and works as a free-lanced teacher for German as a foreign language. Her interests lie in Intercultural and Multilingual Communication and associated training methods.
- Bausinger, H. (1988). Stereotypie und Wirklichkeit. In A. Wierlacher (Eds.), Jahrbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache 14 (pp. 157-170). München: iudicium.
- Hansen, K. P. (2011). Kultur und Kulturwissenschaft. Tübingen: Francke.
- TED. (2013, July 17). Pico Iyer: Where is home? [Video file]. Available at: http://bit.ly/2h22Zdd (Accessed 26 July 2017).
- Thomas, A. (2006). Die Bedeutung von Vorurteil und Stereotyp im interkulturellen Handeln. Interculture Journal 5(2) [pdf file], pp. 3-20. Available at: http://bit.ly/2vIfvBM (Accessed 26 July 2017).
- Weber, J.-J. & Horner, K. (2012). Introducing Multilingualism. A social approach. London: Routledge.